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At The Boundary Estate

January 3, 2014
by the gentle author

Arnold Circus

The Boundary Estate is one of the commonplace wonders of the East End. Hundreds live there and thousands pass through, so that over-familiarity may have rendered it invisible to some. Yet yesterday’s sparkling winter sunlight – that we enjoyed as a brief respite from the procession of rainstorms – offered the opportunity to examine its architecture anew.

Completed in 1900 as Britain’s first Council Estate upon the site of the Old Nichol, the Boundary Estate comprises a series of towers of diverse design, linked by the use of red brick and the inventive employment of vernacular architectural forms. Here are turrets and Dutch gables, and steeply pitched roofs that evoke Medieval tithe barns. Named after villages along the Thames and labelled in ceramic signs made by Doulton, there is an unapologetic Romanticism about these structures which, in their modest Arts & Crafts folksiness, would not look out of place in illustrations by Arthur Rackham or Charles Robinson.

More than a century later, the Boundary Estate continues to serve its purpose and to draw the affection of its inhabitants. The attention to detail and use of quality materials in these buildings coalesce in the realisation of an Estate that is domestic and humane, allowing a large number of people to live in close proximity within a civilised environment.

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23 Responses leave one →
  1. January 3, 2014

    Yes, they create a very pleasant atmosphere

  2. Libby Hall permalink
    January 3, 2014

    For me what makes sunshine glorious – particularly urban sunshine – is the shadows it throws.

    A sweet way to begin the day – with lovely photographs of serene and timeless shadows.

  3. January 3, 2014

    A suffusion of crimson light emergent as the day breaks … and the sprawling cross-contours of tree shadows cast across and splicing a wall … Each building presenting – like a personage – with dignity and character … What an amazing artistic eye to perceive and capture all of this in a morning walk! And, yes, easy to image Arthur Rackham or Charles Robison out and about these paths early with their pen and ink to garner sketches.

  4. January 3, 2014

    Glad to see the houses all looking so good these days. Valerie

  5. aubrey permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Stunning pictures. How did you capture such shots so bereft of people? The given first names of the different blocks were originally succeeded by the term “buildings”. They were probably changed to “House” during the early sixties. I think one can still see some trace of the ‘buildings’ word overwritten in various places on the estate.

  6. Beryl Happe permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Beautiful pictures, how did you manage to find it so deserted??

  7. January 3, 2014

    What a difference a blue sky makes… — Wonderful estate!

    Love & Peace

  8. January 3, 2014

    I love the bright blue London sky…
    It seems we had the same idea yesterday – I took advantage of the beautiful weather to visit the site of the old Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens to compare ‘then and now’ – a blog post on its way in due course.
    Grace x

  9. January 3, 2014

    These are fine buildings. If only all later developments had such attention to detail and quality materials.

  10. Sue permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Does anyone know what percentage of households on the estate are still social housing?

  11. Julia S permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Really lovely images, and always good to see that someone else is noticing and recording the beautiful amongst the everyday. Is there a map that shows the location of the places that are featured ?

  12. Ros permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Stunning photographs! If only modern buildings were built with visual pleasure as a priority. These are neither triumphalist nor boring. Thanks for drawing our attention back to them.

  13. Ayan Mohamed permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Absolutely beautiful pictures. I remember In the 1990s the estate was looking rather run down but they have been cleaned up and are looking great. Have noticed that Some of the buildings are not as well kept maybe they have more leasholders? The blue skies have allowed them to shine. Great post as always.

  14. Elaine permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Now that’s what a housing estate really should look like! Such a pleasure to see such beautiful century-old architecture in comparison with the horrendous concrete buildings that are being churned out nowadays.

  15. January 3, 2014

    Nice photographs of the estate, that I find interesting and pretty! Such a difference to many estates around London. Been there only couple of times walking somewhere, surprised by the style. Been myself to explore and photograph the Barbican estate in the lovely sunshine, another amazing place to live in London, don’t you think? (you probably wrote about Barbican, I have to do a search through the history!).

  16. Paul Huckett permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Another splendid photographic delight —the sunlight is used beautifully and the almost deserted streets are superb…early Sunday morning by any chance ? Your blog has become the travel guide for my next trip to the UK and has filled my iPad notebook with tips and places to visit —–Spitalsfield , here we come !

  17. Keith Chilvers permalink
    January 3, 2014

    Boundary estate was built at a time before building was purely driven by profit and architecture dictated by cost, as with many of our great surviving civic buildings (eg Shoreditch Town Hall) – the difference between then and now!

  18. Christopher Walker permalink
    January 10, 2014

    I grew up on the Boundary estate in the 50s/60s and the pictures bring back such fabulous memories.

  19. Christine Maiocco permalink
    January 10, 2014

    I visited this location last Spring and these pictures certainly capture the loveliness of these buildings. Any chance we can see what the insides look like? I realize these are people’s homes, and I don’t mean to intrude, but seeing the inside would add to the appreciation of the buildings. Thanks.

  20. lorna Stodell permalink
    January 10, 2014

    L0vely photos brought back memories of living in Iffley house 1969-1977

  21. Sergiy permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Nice location!
    Just seen it on the telly today (The Bletchley Circle s02e02).

  22. Ron Pummell permalink
    January 21, 2014

    In the late 1940’s, as a paper boy, I worked for Stan Baldwin who had a newsagents at the beginning of Hackney Road. We delivered daily newspapers to the Boundary Estate and other areas.

  23. Abdul Aziz permalink
    March 9, 2014

    Lived here from 1976 to 2009. Now in Birmingham. Brings back great memories but heartbroken that I could not afford to live there today…

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